Golden Age musicals are NOT going away.
Looking at the 2021-2022 season, I see the following musicals either open or opening on Broadway:
- The Music Man – December 2021
- Funny Girl – March 2022
- Pal Joey – TBD
- 1776 – TBD
You could argue that Company (which started previews last week and officially opens in December) might qualify, simply because it premiered one year after 1776 so it’s old, but it’s Sondheim, and Sondheim is in a category in and of himself. Even his first musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, doesn’t really feel like a Golden Age musical.
There is a big difference in the way revivals are sung from the original. In most cases, contemporary singers will sing with a great degree of chest mix than the artists who created the role. An exception would be Laura Benanti in She Loves Me, who seems to sing “Vanilla Ice Cream” with more head mix than the late great Barbara Cook. Judge for yourself:
I am very curious to hear Sutton Foster’s take on Marian Paroo in The Music Man (also a role created by Barbara Cook), because I have never hear her do any sustained legit soprano singing. TBH, I’m also a little concerned about the age of both actors in the lead roles because Marian is supposed to be an old maid at 26, and Foster is 46. (As Harriet Harris sang in Millie, “And if the house was big enough, I still could play her yet.”) I’m sure she can pull off the role but the logistics are that Marian has a 10 year old brother, and the math does not work.
That sounds terribly ageist, but I’m being practical. And consistent. If I disapproved of casting that role with an age gap like that in regional theater, how can I approve of it on Broadway?
In any event, Golden Age musicals continue to flourish because their stories continue to resonate. As I discussed in my recent blogpost, Revisiting the Why of Golden Age Musicals, Golden Age musicals handle contemporary topics, and aren’t just “showgirls in gooey gowns.” Some of the handling is problematic – the domestic abuse in Carousel and Oliver, Nellie’s racism in South Pacific, the white savior role of Anna in The King and I (my least favorite R&Ham musical, despite Kelli O’Hara’s brilliant turn in the 2015 revival) – but it could be a great challenge to find a way to recognize these flaws in the interpretation of the show.
In some cases, a show might need to be reworked in order to be viable, if that is allowed by the licensing company/composer’s estate and if it could be done without completely compromising the show’s artistic integrity. I’m not suggesting that we need to apply a “woke” standard to all revivals (and I also don’t consider “woke” to be a bad thing, because awareness is not a bad thing). But it is an acting challenge to recognize that you are a flawed character or that you love a flawed character and include that recognition in your interpretation. Nathan Gunn and Kelli O’Hara accomplished that in the 2013 Lincoln Center production of Carousel, led by the subtle touches of director John Rando.
I have yet to see anyone truly pull off making Bill Sykes in Oliver even vaguely sympathetic or his abused girlfriend Nancy anything other than a apologist, but perhaps I haven’t seen the right production yet. Or perhaps I need to direct it….
If you want to know more about how to audition for a Golden Age musical successfully, I will be presenting a two part series on this holiday weekend.
- On Friday, 11/25, I will release a video on YouTube presenting 5 Tips for Giving a GREAT Golden Age Musical Audition.
- On Saturday, 11/26 at 12:30pm EST, join me in a group class in which we’ll work on preparing a specific Golden Age song for an audition. We’ll take it from warming up on audition day to knowing the background of the song, and then learning song.
- All registrants will have the option of sending me a video of their performance of the song covered in class OR another Golden Age song of their choice within 24 hours of class. I will review it and send a detailed evaluation of the video.
Not only FREE, but all registrants will receive a discount code for 10% off a Vocal Discovery Session OR a set of lessons with Mezzoid Voice Studio (new students only – lessons must be taken between 1/1/2022 and 6/11/2022).
Registration and more information HERE or message me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The group class will be recorded and I will accept videos from people who could not be there in real time up through December 1.